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Without fair use, we wouldn’t be able to criticize, comment on, parody, or quote anything without permission first. This is the exception that makes this Yogi Bear alternative ending possible, that lets you photocopy the pages you need for that final research paper you’re writing, and that allows Jon Stewart to show clips from the news networks he’s criticizing.
Not every unauthorized use of a copyrighted work is an unlawful use. But with the never-ending conversation about copyright enforcement these days, it would be easy to assume that you can’t even touch a copyrighted work without permission from its author.
There are several exceptions to copyright—the government-granted monopoly on the production and distribution of a creative work. One allows libraries to create archives, another allows you to resell used textbooks. But every year for the last three years, Public Knowledge has come together to celebrate our favorite copyright exception hero: fair use.
So join us Friday, May 4, to celebrate how fair use allows us to create, explore, and challenge the world around us—without asking for permission first.
Here’s a sampling of what to look forward to:
Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, is the first keynote speaker. As Poet Laureate, Pinsky spearheaded the Favorite Poem Project, to which thousands of Americans have submitted readings (both video and audio) of their favorite poems.
Kirby Ferguson, creator of the series Everything is a Remix, will also deliver a keynote presentation. Showing that no work of art is created in a vacuum, Ferguson’s web series is a fair use masterpiece that challenges notions of originality.
Journalism and Fair Use
The future of journalism relies on fair use. Most of the media ventures that are achieving success—online and off—aggregate and comment on news content. Many mainstream news magazines also rely on their fair use rights to excerpt others' news clips for their readers. Websites like The Huffington Post, Gawker, Newser, and Drudge Report, and publications like The Week, Newsweek, and Time are all successful because they have the legal ability to reprint summaries or commentaries of news items because of the fair use doctrine.
Given the wave of lawsuits regarding copyright in online journalism and linking practices on blogs, a discussion of fair use in journalism couldn’t come at a better time.
Panelists: Ryan Grim, Huffington Post; Josh Voorhees, Slatest; Angela Chuang, AU
Moderated by Joe Torres, Free Press
A World without Copyright: The Fashion Industry
Because the artistic community in fashion has long survived and thrived without copyright protection, “remix” in fashion is boundless—fashion designers are free to riff on anything from their contemporaries, to trends, to 50-year-old styles. The cycle of inspiration and imitation are the fashion industry’s bread and butter. High-end fashion designers draw inspiration from style on the street, while low-end retailers democratize high-end trends by selling more cheaply made versions of designer apparel. And because copies quickly saturate the market and trends so quickly become ubiquitous, each new season brings new designs and trends.
Adding a new layer of regulation like copyright protection to the fast-paced fashion industry would only burden it: imagine a designer seeking legal sign-off on every piece; the top brand going after competing new-comers; or the new design studio shutting down under the weight of legal costs. In a world where there are few legal ramifications for direct copying, the industry relies on social pressure and brand recognition instead.
Panelists: Nora Abousteit, Kollabora.com; Ilse Metchek, California Fashion Association
Moderated by Marisa Gluck, Radar Research
Poetry and Fair Use
For over a century, poetry has been rife with quotation, appropriation, and remix. Public readings are just one aspect of the rich culture of poetry in which fair use comes into play. Practices like allusion and pastiche are not only common, but are a rich and accepted tradition among poets. In order to pay homage or to critique another poem, poetry is often highly referential. There is also a long-standing literary tradition of poetic epigraphs proceeding articles in magazines and chapters in books. In all these scenarios, fair use is a crucial tool for poets to create their work.
Poetry critics also rely on fair use to a greater degree in order to write reviews. Without fair use, critics wouldn’t be able to quote from the poetry they are critiquing. Additionally, new questions about fair use and copyright are being raised as poets and their publishers seek new ways to distribute and popularize poetry.
Panelists: Peter Jaszi, AU; Susan Tischy, GMU; Casey Smith, Corcoran College of Art and Design; David Fenza, AWP
Moderated by Sherwin Siy, Public Knowledge